Type of paper: Article Review

Topic: Customers, Education, Study, Conformity, Community, Consumer, Behavior, Theory

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2020/11/29


Executive Summary
The following is a critical review of an article titled “If I want you to like me, should I be more like you or unlike you? The effect of prior positive interaction with the group on conformity and distinctiveness.” this report analysis the theoretical and methodological perspectives and presents the strengths and weaknesses of the study. In addition, the report contains arguments and recommendations that are well defined regarding distinctiveness and conformity in relation to consumer behavior. All the resources used in the report are base on reliable sources such as academic journals and books.

Article Summary.4

Theoretical Approach5

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension6


Methodological approach8



Qualitative vs. Quantitative10
Validity and Reliability..10
Other Aspects..11
Consumer Behavior
The process that the consumers undergo in making various decisions on the type of commodities to buy is greatly influenced by the social settings within their environment. The social influence is where the conflict in consumer decision comes in. But if Veronica Papyrina’s article is anything to go by, then the social influence can either be as a result of conformity or distinctiveness. The author who is a marketing assistant professor at the San Francisco’s College of business has recently published an article on consumer behavior. There is empirical evidence that shows that consumers conform to the goods that the group members use. Moreover, there are some studies that indicate the need for people to be distinct from others in a group. There are times when the distinctiveness or conformity is only in the public eyes. The article seeks to analyze whether people conform or seek distinctiveness in a group. The author takes a thorough research and comes up with the results. The use of clear examples, surveys, literature and statistical analysis makes the study reliable.
Article Summary
In a bid to understand the consumer behavior, the article is based on analysis of two researches that were carried out in distinctiveness and conformity. Some research shows that consumers conform in some situations and seek distinctiveness from others. The study is aimed at reconciling the two concepts by coming up with a moderator that can accommodate both research findings. The study begins by looking at the theoretical school of conformity then introduces the theory of optimal distinctiveness. The author discusses whether people seek distinctiveness or conformity in the presence of other group members based on the extensions of the Brewer’s theory. In order to make the experiment easier, the author develops hypothesis based on how people react to a group about conformity and distinctiveness. The study describes the research design and presents the results and then concludes with a brief discussion on how the theoretical framework may conflict with some research findings on the effect of conformity and distinctiveness in consumer behavior from the past studies.
Theoretical Approach
Conformity has been identified by various scholars to have a great impact on decisions made by consumers in the buying process. There is a behavior for individuals to believe in the decisions made by their peers such that the group members are uniform. Informational influence is said to be a leading motive for conformity, referring to an individual’s desire to be in line with the reality. The influence results from people’s uncertainty about the outcome of certain results thus they assume that what others do is the right thing. The judgments that people come up with under such influence are maintained with little attention paid to the fact that are people are observing them or not. Normative influence is the other conformity motive that is driven by the people’s desire to be accepted in the society. The individuals who are influenced by this motive tend to believe that having similar products or interests with others develops their liking towards them. This idea is in consistent with a theory that was developed by (Asch (1956)) on classic line judgment task. The article draws a line between the informative and normative influence in line with a 1955 research by Deutsch and Gerald. The normative influence is thus defined as the tendency to conform to other people’s positive expectations. Those individuals who conform to the group, according to the normative influence, have the advantage of gaining acceptance from the other members. Referent informational influence is the other type of conformity that influences consumer behavior. In his study on self-categorization, Turner suggested that people classify themselves according to their similarity with others. People identify themselves with a group by adapting to the group’s behavior. The article reviews a study that was carried out in 1970 by Frager about the Asch’s line judgment task that proposed that the rate of conformity in the Western countries was more than in the Eastern countries.
The article fails to capture the weaknesses of the theories used and only concentrates on their strengths. The Asch’s theory, for example, was developed in the 1950s thus may not be applicable in the present times. It is not easy to apply the results in the real world. Although one may see the theories as unreliable, the author continues to use them in the article.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension
There are various cultures across the world, and the extent of an individual’s conformity depends on their culture. For instance, the level of conformity in the western countries is more than that of the eastern countries. This can be illustrated better by the theory of Cultural Dimension by Hofstede that suggest that individualistic cultures have less group harmony than the collectivist cultures thus less conformity. In a study carried out by (Wheeler et. al, (1989)), people from individualistic cultures are more likely to get along with the members outside their social groups as compared to the collectivist's culture.
The concepts of informational influence, normative and referent informational influence do not fully explain the reasons why individuals need to be accepted or to have a sense of identity. The author cites that other researchers carried out have established the need for social inclusion in the society. In a study by (Baumeister and Leary (1995)), it is evident that interpersonal behaviors such as conformity are based on people’s need for group membership. They hold that, the belongingness hypothesis proves that the social inclusion need is a human want that is fundamental to all thus it is not derived from any motive. However, the authors suggest that the need to belong to a group goes up to a certain level after which it starts diminishing.
Brewer, in her 1991 OTD study, holds a similar view that the need to feel a sense of belonging is common to all but the need to feel unique from others is an equally strong force. The need to be unique prompts people to focus on their differences with the group while the social inclusion need makes people focus more on their similarities with the group. In relation to consumer behavior, Veronica, argues that the tension created by the needs can be resolved at behavioral or cognitive level. This can be through personal consumption decisions and changes in self-stereotyping respectively. The authors review closely linked with a study by (Solomon (1983)) that suggests that people create desirable self-identities from material things, and they use this to make a judgment about others. Therefore, people categorize others on the basis of the unique products they use. The article further develops the OTD theory by Brewer where it suggest that social inclusion may be acquired provided the individuals gain positively from the interaction. The article uses four hypotheses to understand the distinctiveness influence on consumer behavior. First, in cases where the individuals do not have a positive experience with the groups, they tend to base their consumption decisions on other group members when their decisions are public.
The second hypothesis holds that there is no relationship between conformity and the absence of a positive interaction with the group when one’s decisions are private. The author formulates the last two hypotheses based on distinctiveness. When an individual interact positively with a group, the chances of their seeking distinctiveness is high when their consumption is in the public. The last hypothesis formulates that there is no link between an individual’s social interaction with the group and their pursuance of distinctiveness when their consumption decision is private.
Methodological approach
The research uses a design that is based on the four hypotheses above with regard to distinctiveness and conformity. The experimental design employed is the two-by-two between-subjects. The first two hypotheses test the presence or absence of positive interaction with the group prior to the consumption decisions. The other two hypotheses test the reaction of consumers when they make decisions in the public and in private. The experiment undertakes three stages. In the initial stage, the author presents questions about the individual’s personality such as their age, anxiousness, and gender, in a bid to find out the demographic information about the population. The second stage of the experiment involves splitting the participants into groups of a maximum of five people who were asked to read and discuss the merits and demerits of a brief note on health record systems. This is meant to bring about a history of prior interaction in the group. The third phase the participants are told to give feedback on the performance of an MP3 player in relation to a competitor’s brand. They indicate their opinions on the same preference form. In order to investigate the consumer behavior when their decisions are private, the participants are that their opinions would remain confidential even if they signed the same form. In the test for public consumption, the participants are made to believe that they would discuss their opinions in public after indicating it. The study carries out a pretest to make sure that the two brands have equal acceptability levels.
The study was aimed at reconciling the findings that were contradicting in the previous studies concerning consumer behavior. The findings led to a conclusion that regardless of whether an individual chooses to seek distinction of conformity, their decision is influenced by the type of prior interaction they have with the group. In addition, the findings also suggest that this effect is mostly common in circumstances when individuals feel that the other group members are observing. However, the conclusion drawn from the findings is not accurate since it contradicts the theoretical framework used in the study. Brewer’s ODT theory used in the article holds that those who need a sense of belonging from a group also seek to be unique in their social groups. This is not what the findings of the experiment show thus the reliability of the study is in question.
The research used a sampling method that can be questioned. The participants who were university students were offered tickets to a cinema as an incentive for their participation. Therefore, the accuracy of their responses can be questioned since some of them may only have wanted to get the ticket. Carrying out an experiment on such an important aspect may require one to use a bigger sample size and have participants with different features such as nationality and age. People’s ideas and perceptions differ from generation to another. The author’s use of a small sample size of only 64 students in the same age bracket limits the usage of the study globally. Further the study used the generation Y only as the participants thus excluding other generations, making it impossible to generalize the findings of generations. In line with the Hofstede’s study used in the theoretical framework, culture is a key influence on the consumer behavior. The experiment is thus limited to people in the United States only because of their individualistic culture that was used in the experiment. Basing her opinion on Hofstede’s model, the author suggests that the people from individualistic societies tend to be influenced by conformity in their decisions, but the findings of the experiment suggest otherwise. This shows that the experiment cannot be fully relied on.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
The consumer decision-making process uses both the qualitative and quantitative methods of research. A qualitative research investigates all aspects of individuals including the emotional and personality characteristics that the experiment does. The qualitative aspect of the study can also be depicted with the amount of content that is based on the individual’s opinions. The author, for instance, eliminates 14% of the participants leading to a smaller sample size that gives the study a qualitative aspect. The use of qualitative data is important because the researcher is able to concentrate on a particular aspect of the variables under investigation.
Validity and Reliability
The research uses theories from renowned authors such as Asch, Turner, Deutsch and Gerald, and Brewer. The use of the models in the literature review to support the study makes it very reliable. The article can be categorized as a recent work based out the fact that it was published in 2012 that implies the research was not carried out many years ago. However, the study is not accurate because the findings contradict with the theoretical framework used.
Other Aspects
The motive of the study is to research on consumer behavior, but the article uses more of a psychological approach to the study. There are other concepts apart from distinctiveness and conformity that affect consumer behavior such brand loyalty, experience, and economic factors. The author only tackles the conformity and distinctiveness thus losing sight of other important factors that may equally influence consumer behavior.
With time, consumers become loyal to certain brands and their purchase decisions are based on the brand not necessarily the need to be distinct or to conform. Such customers associate the brands with high quality and prestige and may not buy any other brand for fear that it may be of a lower quality. The experience that the customer has had with the products influences their behavior. If the individual felt that the product gave them more satisfaction than they anticipated, they will make a repurchase of the product. Similarly, if the individual fails to get the expected satisfaction, they may not buy the product again.
Consumer behavior can also be affected by the economic factors. For instance, if the consumer expects to get a pay rise, they may be tempted to spend more thus affecting their behavior. The amount of liquid assets that the consumers own affects their behavior to a great extent. If they have more liquid assets such as cash, they tend to spend more on luxury goods that when their assets are not easily convertible to cash. There are other factors that affect consumer behavior such as occupation, income, and lifestyles, but they are ignored in the article. The need for consumers to stand out in their social class or to be associated with a particular brand brings in the need for them to be unique. The need for consumers to maintain a certain lifestyle proves that they conform to a particular group.
Conclusively, the article leaves out other aspects that influence consumer behavior. Furthermore, the theories used in the study contradict with the research findings. The author focuses more on the positive side of the theories used in the study but ignores the weaknesses. The study is based on an insufficient sample size of a similar generation within a common culture thus it cannot be used in other cultures, generations, and the global context.
Asch. S.E. (1951) Effects of Group Pressure upon the Modification and Distortion of Judgments in Groups Leadership and Men. Pittsburg, PA: Carnegie Press.
Baumeister RF, Leary MR. (1995) The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a fundamental Hunan Motivation. Psychological Bulletin 117(3): 497-529.
Brewer MB. (1991) The Social Self: On Being the Same and Different at the Same Time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 17(October): 400-415.
Deutsch M, Gerald HG. (1955) A Study of Normative and Informational Social Influences Upon Individual Judgment. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology.51: 629- 636.
Frager R. (1970) Conformity and Anticonformity in Japan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 15(3): 203-231.
Hofstede G. (1980) Culture’s Consequences. Sage: Beverly Hills, CA.
Papyrina,V. (2012)’If I want you to like me, should I be like you or unlike you? The effect of prior positive interaction with the group on conformity and distinctiveness in consumer decision making”. Journal of Consumer Behavior.
Solomon MR. (1983) The Role of Products as Social Stimuli: A Symbolic Internationalism Perspective. Journal of Consumer Research 10(December): 319-328.
Turner JC. (1991) Social Influence. Open University Press: Milton Keynes.
Wheeler L, Reis HT, Bond MH. (1989) Collectivism-Individualism in Everyday Social Life: The Middle Kingdom and the Melting Pot. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57(1): 79-86.

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